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There's No Such Thing As a Miracle Fix For Debt

Posted: 02/05/2013 12:51 pm

A new pair of shoes charged to your credit card? A family vacation paid for with your line of credit? Dinner with friends financed by your overdraft? Whatever the expense is, charging up a pile of unsecured debt can often be a lot of fun and at times effortless.

On the other hand, paying off that debt is usually easier said than done!

Consumer debt has become a major concern in Canada. Right now, the average household debt-to-income ratio sits at an all-time high of 164.6 per cent. While the Bank of Canada and the Minister of Finance continue to warn about the dangers of carrying such high levels of debt, Canadians continue to pile it on.

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  • 10. United Kingdom

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 80.9 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $1.99 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $35,860 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $2.46 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 8.4 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aaa Although the UK has one of the largest debt-to-GDP ratios among developed nations, it has managed to keep its economy relatively stable. The UK is not part of the eurozone and has its own independent central bank. The UK's independence has helped protect it from being engulfed in the European debt crisis. Government bond yields have remained low. The country also has retained its Aaa credit rating, reflecting its secure financial standing. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 9. Germany

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 81.8 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $2.79 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $37,591 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $3.56 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 5.5 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aaa As the largest economy and financial stronghold of the EU, Germany has the most interest in maintaining debt stability for itself and the entire eurozone. In 2010, when Greece was on the verge of defaulting on its debt, the IMF and EU were forced to implement a 45 billion euro bailout package. A good portion of the bill was footed by Germany. The country has a perfect credit rating and an unemployment rate of just 5.5 percent, one of the lowest in Europe. Despite its relatively strong economy, Germany will have one of the largest debt-to-GDP ratios among developed nations of 81.8 percent, according to Moody's projections. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 8. France

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 85.4 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $2.26 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $33,820 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $2.76 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 9.9 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aaa France is the third-biggest economy in the EU, with a GDP of $2.76 trillion, just shy of the UK's $2.46 trillion. In January, after being long-considered one of the more economically stable countries, Standard & Poor's downgraded French sovereign debt from a perfect AAA to AA+. This came at the same time eight other euro nations, including Spain, Portugal and Italy, were also downgraded. S&P's action represented a serious blow to the government, which had been claiming its economy as stable as the UK's. Moody's still rates the country at Aaa, the highest rating, but changed the country's outlook to negative on Monday. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 7. United States

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 85.5 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $12.8 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $47,184 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $15.13 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 8.3 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aaa U.S. government debt in 2001 was estimated at 45.6 percent of total GDP. By 2011, after a decade of increased government spending, U.S. debt was 85.5 percent of GDP. In 2001, U.S. government expenditure as a percent of GDP was 33.1 percent. By 2010, is was 39.1 percent. In 2005, U.S. debt was $6.4 trillion. By 2011, U.S. debt has doubled to $12.8 trillion, according to Moody's estimates. While Moody's still rates the U.S. at a perfect Aaa, last August Standard & Poor's downgraded the country from AAA to AA+. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 6. Belgium

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 97.2 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $479 billion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $37,448 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $514 billion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 7.2 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aa1 Belgium's public debt-to-GDP ratio peaked in 1993 at about 135 percent, but was subsequently reduced to about 84 percent by 2007. In just four years, the ratio has risen to nearly 95 percent. In December 2011, Moody's downgraded Belgium's local and foreign currency government bonds from Aa1 to Aa3. In its explanation of the downgrade, the rating agency cited "the growing risk to economic growth created by the need for tax hikes or spending cuts." In January of this year, the country was forced to make about $1.3 billion in spending cuts, according to The Financial Times, to avoid failing "to meet new European Union fiscal rules designed to prevent a repeat of the eurozone debt crisis." <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 5. Portugal

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 101.6 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $257 billion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $25,575 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $239 billion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 13.6 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Ba3 Portugal suffered greatly from the global recession -- more than many other countries -- partly because of its low GDP per capita. In 2011, the country received a $104 billion bailout from the EU and the IMF due to its large budget deficit and growing public debt. The Portuguese government now "plans to trim the budget deficit from 9.8 percent of gross domestic product in 2010 to 4.5 percent in 2012 and to the EU ceiling of 3 percent in 2013," according Business Week. The country's debt was downgraded to junk status by Moody's in July 2011 and downgraded again to Ba3 on Monday. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 4. Ireland

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 108.1 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $225 billion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $39,727 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $217 billion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 14.5 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Ba1 Ireland was once the healthiest economy in the EU. In the early 2000s, it had the lowest unemployment rate of any developed industrial country. During that time, nominal GDP was growing at an average rate of roughly 10 percent each year. However, when the global economic recession hit, Ireland's economy began contracting rapidly. In 2006, the Irish government had a budget surplus of 2.9 percent of GDP. In 2010, it accrued a staggering deficit of 32.4 percent of GDP. Since 2001, Ireland's debt has increased more than 500 percent. Moody's estimates that the country's general government debt was $224 billion, well more than its GDP of $216 billion. Moody's rates Ireland's sovereign debt at Ba1, or junk status. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 3. Italy

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 120.5 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $2.54 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $31,555 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $2.2 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 8.9 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> A3 Italy's large public debt is made worse by the country's poor economic growth. In 2010, GDP grew at a sluggish 1.3 percent. This was preceded by two years of falling GDP. In December 2011, the Italian government passed an austerity package in order to lower borrowing costs. The Financial Times reports that according to consumer association Federconsumatori, the government's nearly $40 billion package of tax increases and spending cuts will cost the average household about $1,500 each year for the next three years. On Monday, Moody's downgraded Italy's credit rating to A3, from A2. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 2. Greece

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 168.2 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $489 billion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $28,154 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $303 billion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 19.2 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Ca Greece became the poster child of the European financial crisis in 2009 and 2010. After it was bailed out by the rest of the EU and the IMF, it appeared that matters could not get any worse. Instead, Greece's economy has continued to unravel, prompting new austerity measures and talks of an even more serious default crisis. In 2010, Greece's debt as a percent of GDP was 143 percent. Last year, Moody's estimates Greece's debt increased to 163 percent of GDP. Greece would need a second bailout worth 130 billion euro -- the equivalent of roughly $172 billion -- in order to prevent the country from defaulting on its debt in March. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>

  • 1. Japan

    <strong>Debt as a percentage of GDP:</strong> 233.1 percent <strong>General government debt:</strong> $13.7 trillion <strong>GDP per capita (PPP):</strong> $33,994 <strong>Nominal GDP:</strong> $5.88 trillion <strong>Unemployment rate:</strong> 4.6 percent <strong>Credit rating:</strong> Aa3 Japan's debt-to-GDP ratio of 233.1 percent is the highest among the world's developed nations by a large margin. Despite the country's massive debt, it has managed to avoid the type of economic distress affecting nations such as Greece and Portugal. This is largely due to Japan's healthy unemployment rate and population of domestic bondholders, who consistently fund Japanese government borrowing. Japanese vice minister Fumihiko Igarashi said in a speech in November 2011 that "95 percent of Japanese government bonds have been financed domestically so far, with only 5 percent held by foreigners." Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has proposed the doubling of Japan's 5 percent national sales tax by 2015 to help bring down the nation's debt. <a href="http://247wallst.com/2012/02/14/the-tencountries-deepest-in-debt/#ixzz1mSdyJAeo" target="_hplink">Read more at 24/7 Wall St.</a>


As a result of this buy now, pay later consumer mentality an increasing number of debt relief organizations popped up to "help" indebted Canadians address their financial problems. And while many of these organizations do a great job in facilitating a healthy financial future for their clients, there are a number of debt relief companies that take advantage of vulnerable consumers without providing any real solutions.

Some of these companies, with slick advertising campaigns promising quick and easy ways to fix debt problems, and offering unrealistic promises of drastically lower payments, make it difficult to identify which solution will improve -- not hinder -- your financial health.

The stress of dealing with unmanageable debt can be overwhelming for most consumers. Between creditor calls, collection threats and living paycheque to paycheque, these "get out of debt fast" opportunities can be very appealing. But are they too good to be true?

Like any other financial product, doing your homework when it comes to debt relief is essential to finding the right solution for your individual financial needs. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to debt management. By researching the various solutions provided by countless organizations, consumers can distinguish between legitimate debt relief solutions, and those that will further damage their financial future:

  • Blanket Recommendations -- There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all debt solution. Consumers should be wary of agencies that do not take the time to review their personal financial situation and discuss all available debt relief options.
  • Unrealistic Claims -- Avoid debt relief organizations that make unrealistic claims to lower your debt by 80 per cent, or promise to remove negative information from credit reports. Getting out of debt is simply not this quick and easy, and accurate information cannot be removed from an individuals credit file.
  • Minimum Debt Requirements -- Steer clear of any debt relief option that requires you to be carrying a minimum amount of debt. No two financial situations are the same, and the agency should be willing to help regardless of the amount of money owed to creditors.
  • High Fees -- High up front fees, early program exit fees, and fees associated with consultations or financial education materials are all warning signs consumers should be aware of. A debt relief program should always be voluntary and never require payment before a consumer enrols.
  • Limited Creditor Communications -- Indebted consumers should never be required to limit or cut off communication with their creditors. If a consumer is making payments to a debt relief program, they should still be able to speak with their creditors.

Before signing up to any debt relief program, consumers should determine if it's the best solution for their individual needs. More importantly, Canadians should look for options that will not only help them address their current debt problems, but also provide the tools and skills they need to change their money management behaviours and build a healthy financial future.

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  • They Go Coupon Crazy

    Robin Ramirez, Amiko Fountain and Marilyn Johnson were charged with running a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/20/robin-ramirez-amiko-fountain-marilyn-johnson-40-million-counterfeit-coupons_n_1690095.html" target="_hplink">$40 million counterfeit coupon ring</a>.

  • They File Bogus Tax Refunds

    Krystle Marie Reyes was arrested for a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/11/krystle-marie-reyes_n_1586502.html" target="_hplink">$2.1 million tax refund scam</a>.

  • They Cut And Paste

    Barbara Aqueveque was accused of a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/25/barbara-aqueveque-label-switching-scheme-target-walmart_n_1699268.html" target="_hplink">UPC-swapping scam</a> that netted her $30,000 a month.

  • They Buy Houses Using Other Peoples' Credit

    Suniti Shah and Supriti Soni, California sisters, plead guilty to a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/01/suniti-shah-supriti-soni-real-estate-fraud_n_1728581.html?utm_hp_ref=money" target="_hplink">$16 million real estate fraud scheme</a>.

  • They Run Nigerian Dating Scams

    A mother and daughter were accused of scamming <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/tracy-and-karen-vasseur-online-dating-scam_n_1616980.html" target="_hplink">$1 million from online daters</a>.

  • They Cheat Their Employers

    Patricia Smith was sentenced to 78 months in jail after <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/patricia-smith-embezzlement-acura_n_1615439.html http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/21/patricia-smith-embezzlement-acura_n_1615439.html" target="_hplink">embezzling more than $10 million</a> from the car dealership where she worked.

  • They Steal From Friends

    A South Carolina woman's <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/19/south-carolina-stolen-lottery-ticket_n_1686630.html?utm_hp_ref=money" target="_hplink">$500 winning lottery ticket was allegedly stolen by a friend</a> after she shared her good news.

  • They Put Their Friendship Up For Sale

    An eBay user <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/adam-sank-facebook-friend-ebay_n_1681348.html" target="_hplink">put a price on friendship</a> by putting a Facebook friendship with Sank, a New York-based comedian, up for sale on the auction site.

  • They Steal To Get Their Dream Job

    Rachael Claire Martin stole nearly $72,000 from the Barclays bank where she worked to allegedly <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/rachael-claire-martin-barclays-money-plastic-surgery_n_1680112.html?utm_hp_ref=money&ir=Money" target="_hplink">pay for various plastic surgery procedures in order to increase her chances of becoming a model</a>.

  • They Steal From Their Spouses

    Sean Mewherter, husband of lottery winner, is accused of <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/11/sean-mewherter-husband-of_n_1666676.html?utm_hp_ref=money" target="_hplink">stealing his wife's $1 million ticket</a>.

  • They Swallow Inedible Objects

    Angela Hardman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/10/angela-hardman-swallows-diamond-engagement-ring-pawns_n_1662911.html?utm_hp_ref=money&ir=Money" target="_hplink">swallowed a $4,000 engagement ring</a> at a department store before passing it through her body and then pawning it.

  • They Sell Their Souls On eBay

    Lori N. tried to <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/06/lori-n-soul-for-sale_n_1654469.html?utm_hp_ref=money&ir=Money" target="_hplink">sell her soul on eBay</a>, with a starting bid of $2,000.

  • They Rent Out Other People's Property

    Eric Sisson, a homeless man, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/03/eric-sisson-homeless-rent-vacant-home_n_1646436.html?utm_hp_ref=money&ir=Money" target="_hplink">rented out a vacant foreclosed home he didn't own</a> via Craigslist, allegedly earning $1,375.

  • They Cash Dead Peoples' Checks

    Kline Fisher Budd was charged with theft of government property after authorities discovered he had been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/02/kline-fisher-budd-dead-mother-social-security_n_1643924.html?utm_hp_ref=money" target="_hplink">cashing his dead mother's Social Security checks for 26 years</a>.

  • They Steal From Thieves

    Lisa Jarvis, a TD Bank teller, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/lisa-jarvis-td-bank-teller_n_1631105.html" target="_hplink">allegedly stole $100,000 from a customer's bank account</a>. The customer, Kenneth Costello, was then charged with filing four bogus tax returns.

 

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